Kilimanjaro Trekking

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The map of Kilimanjaro below shows the 7 routes we offer at Tontu Safaris to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Mweka is for descent only.

Trekking Routes to Mount Kilimanjaro Summit

The routes vary in cost, duration and can affect your potential to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

As you can see from the map, three routes begin on the south side of the mountain at just under 2,000m. The Rongai Route begins at 3000m and is a more remote passage from the North East. The Shira, Lemosho and Northern Circuit routes begin on the western side of the mountain.

Only the Marangu Route has huts for the duration of your trek. 

Kilimanjaro routes

The cross-section map above illustrates visually the elevation of each of the Kilimanjaro route starting points.

The Shira Route starts at a relatively high elevation and therefore makes acclimatisation more of a challenge. Lemosho is relatively new route and because of its lower start altitude it makes acclimatisation less of an issue.

A popular but challenging route, the Rongai, approaches from the drier North East.

As you climb Kilimanjaro you pass through four climatic zones . At first is is characterised by tropical rainforest then at around 3,000 metres this gives way to moorland. Once you reach 4,200 metres the landscape becomes desert-like until reaching the upper most reaches of the mountain which are glacial.

Glacial Kilimanjaro

The Routes

Machame Route

  • This route is highly recommended for scenic value and has a medium to high success rate, especially if you choose the seven day itinerary. The six-day options is not recommended for first-time trekkers
  • It is a good Kilimanjaro route for acclimatization as it has a climb high, sleep low opportunity for trekkers on day three. Here trekkers climb from Shira Camp 2 to Lava Tower at 4,600 meters, where they have lunch and then back down to Barranco Camp (3,900 meters) to sleep
  • Like all Kilimanjaro routes, the Machame is a challenging trek with stunning scenery through four diverse climatic zones
  • There is a good opportunity to split pre-summit day climb by adding an extra rest day at Karanga Camp (only available to seven day trekkers) to leave hikers well rested before summiting
  • The route has however got very popular over the past few years which means it can get busy, especially at Barranco where climbers join up with trekkers from the Lemosho, Shira and Umbwe routes
  • The Machame route only offers fully catered camping

Marangu Route

  • The Marangu route was Nicknamed the ‘Coca-Cola’ route as Coke used to be bought along the way in tea huts
  • The route is often selected by unprepared, inexperienced climbers as a result of the reputation for being the “easiest” route, attributing to the lower success rate
  • It is also the shortest Kilimanjaro route with a relatively poor acclimatization profile, which is a major contributor to the low success rates on the Marangu. The six day itinerary does give trekkers an opportunity to climb high, sleep low; however the elevation is moderate and not as effective as other climb high, sleep low opportunities that are present on other Kilimanjaro routes
  • Out of all the Kilimanjaro routes, the Marangu route is the only one with dormitory style accommodation in huts for the whole duration of the climb. The huts come with mattresses and basic amenities, making them a popular choice for budget operators who don’t have the right equipment to tackle the other Kilimanjaro routes
  • The Marangu offers beautiful views from the Saddle but can be considered less scenic than other Kilimanjaro routes due to ascent and descent on same trail
  • Lemosho Route

  • The Lemosho is a beautiful route that departs from the West side of Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Due to its route profile the Lemosho can be completed on a seven or eight day itinerary and offers lots of opportunities to properly acclimatize. Because of it’s versatile route profile it is a highly recommended Kilimanjaro route that has relatively high summit success rates
  • It is also recommended as the starting point is relatively remote and hence provides trekkers with a rather untouched and wild start to their Kilimanjaro adventure. Spotting large wildlife, like antelope, buffalo and even elephant is unusual but not impossible
  • The route also provides unparalleled and spectacular views of the dramatic gorges that characterize the western side of Mount Kilimanjaro
  • The Lemosho offers trekkers the experience of hiking across the Shira Plateau – one of the largest high altitude plateaus in the world
  • Trekkers on the Lemosho typically converge with Machame route on day 3 at Barranco camp and use the Barafu camp route to the summit; however, it is now quite common for Lemosho trekkers to veer north before Lava Tower to join the Northern Circuit which circles the north side of Mount Kilimanjaro and follows an assault passage via Gilman’s Point. The Lemosho route can also be used by trekkers planning to climb the Western Breach to the summit
  • Like the Machame Route, the Lemosho is fully catered camping only
  • Shira Route

  • Same as Lemosho, except Shira offers higher start point and therefore poorer acclimatisation
  • It is a route that we wouldn’t recommend because of it’s high start point
  • Rongai Route

  • The Rongai route is the only northern start point to Kilimanjaro, beginning on the North East side of Kilimanjaro National Park
  • The Rongai offers a true wilderness experience on the early stages of the climb, and like the Lemosho route it is possible to see large wildlife like buffalo, antelope and elephant
  • The Northern slopes tend to be dryer than the southern slopes which makes the Rongai a great Kilimanjaro Route for trekking during the wet season. However, because the northern slopes are dryer they can also be considered less scenic. That being said, a northern approach is often characterized by clear views of Kilimanjaro – something that is not that common from the southern side
  • The Rongai is also a flatter route for the first few days which makes for easy trekking. The route is usually completed on a seven day itinerary but has limited climb high, sleep low opportunities which means that acclimatisation opportunities are not as good as on other Kilimanjaro routes
  • Typically the Rongai route uses the passage from School Hut up past Hans Meyer Cave and Gilman’s Point to Uhuru Peak
  • The route descends via the Marangu route, hence the route has fully catered camping until the last night on the mountain – beers at Horombo Hut anyone?
  • Umbwe Route

  • The Umbwe Route has a short and steep beginning profile up to Barranco camp where trekkers join climbers from the Lemosho, Shira and Machame route
  • Some Umbwe route trekkers don’t join the southern circuit at Barranco but instead continue north, up to Lava Tower and then onto the Western Breach
  • The Umbwe has poor acclimatization opportunities due to its rapid ascent and therefore success rates can be low on this Kilimanjaro route
  • Fully catered camping only
  • Northern Circuit Route

  • The Northern Circuit is the longest route on Mount Kilimanjaro, and has one of the highest summit success rates as the route offers lots of climb high, sleep low opportunities, and time to acclimatise
  • The route departs from same start point as Lemosho but then joins the Northern Circuit near Lava Tower, before traversing the north slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro
  • The summit assault is via Gilman’s Point
  • The route can be completed on an eight or nine day itinerary
  • Western Breach Route

  • The Western Breach is the most technically difficult approach to Mount Kilimanjaro, but perhaps the most rewarding!
  • The approach to the Western Breach usually starts on the Umbwe Route and then continues north and up from Lava Tower
  • The Western Breach was closed due to fatal rockfall in 2006, but reopened in 2007 with a new and safer route configuration. Nonetheless, many tour operators don’t offer the Western Breach on their route roster
  • Only advised for experienced trekkers – it is recommended that all Western Breach climbers use helmets and it is not uncommon to need point crampons during the wet season and sub-surface ice can be an issue
  • Success rates are typically moderate to high as the route is usually only tackled by experienced high altitude trekkers
  • Join a small group

    The sociable and more affordable way to climb

    Tontu Safaris Tanzania Kilimanjaro Machame Route 8 Days
    Machame Route to the peak of Kilimanjaro. Trip Code: (K-MACH-8). Group Size Min 1. Start and finish in Arusha or[...]
    Tontu Safaris Tanzania Kilimanjaro Machame Route 9 Days
    Machame Route to the peak of Kilimanjaro. Trip Code: (K-MACH-9). Group Size Min 1. Start and finish in Arusha or[...]

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